Wage differences among therapists around the globe


As 2014 begins, the spa industry is trending upward and outward, across borders worldwide. One of the biggest factors that contribute to the success of a spa is the quality of its human capital. The cost for a well-qualified and skilled team of therapists can vary from country to country. The global spa industry has shown promising growth in recent years, with spa owners setting up shop in new and novel places. From the American Midwest, all the way to Zimbabwe, the demand for quality spa treatments is increasing every day, and savvy spa owners are more than happy to give consumers what they want. However, with the diversity of spa locations, comes a difficulty in setting key benchmarks in the industry on a global scale.


Due to differences in cost of living, cultural customs and unique national regulations, societies view spa offerings in varying perspectives. This makes it challenging, if not impossible, to draw generalised conclusions about the industry as a whole. One fundamental aspect of spa management that illuminates this issue is the question addressing the largest cost for spas in most countries – payroll costs. While one of the primary goals of a spa manager, regardless of location, is finding and retaining the best therapists they can at a price that is optimal for both the spa’s bottom line and employees, ideas about what is considered a fair wage for the spa staff, especially therapists, varies from country to country.

In a recent article published on spabusiness.com titled “Price to Pay”, Lisa Starr analyses one of the first compilations of therapist salaries worldwide. We will take a closer look at some of the variables impacting wage differences among therapists across the globe.


Different Countries, Different Rules

One factor influencing spa therapist’s wages is the regulations that are put in place for a particular location’s economy. For example, one will typically find spa therapists with higher wages in developed countries because of the many worker protection laws put in place by those governments in result of the cost of living in that area. One key regulation is the minimum wage law. Many of these regulations are much lower, or not present, in developing countries, and this is reflected in the wages for therapists in these areas. Along with this regulation, some countries require employers to pay social security, health insurance and other employee benefits. The U.S. reportedly requires about 11% for worker’s benefits, while Sweden requires 40%.


Pay structure for therapists

A recent look at the average monthly income for spa therapists around the world ranged from $306 in Malaysia to $4,166 in the United States. It is interesting to note that the majority of countries pay their therapists on a largely salary-based monthly pay, with some offering 5-10% commissions on retail products or services. Therapists from the United States have the largest variety of pay structures that vary from spa to spa and often include creative incentives. Oddly enough, many therapists are strictly on commission for the treatments they perform and are making higher salaries than those on monthly salaries in other countries.


Certification versus unofficial training

It would be untrue to say that all officially certified spa therapists are better than those who are not. However, it is not as much of a stretch to say that this official education and certification plays an important role in how much spa therapists will want to be paid. In order to retain talented therapists for the long-term, spas must pay wages that are considered fair in that area. While most western countries like the United States and the UK (amongst many more) will place a lot of importance on official certification, many developing countries (in Asia for example), might not put that much of an emphasis. Oftentimes, skills are passed down through generations of therapists enabling them to be very skilled without any official certification. However, the largest influence on pay does not seem to correlate directly to education or certification, but to the cost of living in each area.


What about you? We would love to know about the challenges that spa managers and directors face out in the field while setting the salary brackets for your spa therapists around the world. What pay structures have worked the best? Do you operate in different countries? If so, how have those experiences varied? Maybe you are a spa therapist, what is your experience with the pay structure and do you feel it is fair? If you are a therapist, did you complete a certification and has that helped you earn more?

By Sonal

Sonal Uberoi creates and delivers smarter spas around the world. Spas and hotel groups hire Sonal to help them design, set up and manage their wellness businesses. Her finance background and worldwide operations experience in the spa, wellness and hospitality sectors make Sonal the go-to expert for business optimisation solutions. Connect with Sonal on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/sonaluberoi.

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